Northwest Senators Work
by News Service
Northwest senators Thursday won approval of a budget resolution they said should make it easier to block the Bush administration's plan to tap surplus revenue from the Bonneville Power Administration.
Lawmakers have said that the plan could force the BPA -- which supplies nearly half of the electricity in the Northwest -- to increase rates to consumers.
The budget language, co-sponsored by Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Patty Murray of Washington, with Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, drops a Senate rule requiring a 60-vote majority to block the administration's plan. Under the new language, approved unanimously by the budget panel, a simple majority in the 100-member Senate would be needed to block the proposal.
"Oregon power consumers have won a victory today against unnecessarily high energy rates," Wyden said. "The administration's proposal to require BPA to make additional Treasury payments would be like requiring someone to pay more in loan fees just because they make more money."
Under President Bush's budget proposal, some surplus revenue from the Oregon-based power marketing agency would be used to pay down the federal debt instead of lowering electricity rates for Northwest businesses and consumers. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman and others have defended the plan, saying BPA revenues would be tapped only after they exceed $500 million. BPA officials expect to generate annual surpluses of about $650 million through 2009.
The proposal would mean "a modest rate increase" for BPA customers in 2008 and 2009, Bodman said last month, but would benefit Bonneville in the long-term through improved access to capital, which would be used to upgrade infrastructure.
Wyden and other lawmakers say it could result in nearly $1 billion in additional costs for Northwest ratepayers during the next decade.
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